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I recently returned from hiking 135 miles of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. The Camino was originally established as a pilgrimage trail when St. James was instructed to bring Christ’s message to the end of the world. Well…he reached Santiago, Spain, saw the ocean spreading out before his feet for as far as the eye could see, and declared that he’d made it.

This was years before Columbus approached Queen Isabella and King Fernand to request funding for his trip to the West Indies. And well over a thousand years before I set foot on the trail.

What started as a solitary journey by one devotee turned into a pilgrimage route. Although many people still journey the trail solo, they are never truly alone. Community is everywhere on the Camino. And it is powerful.

Although I embarked on my journey with my husband and a small group of friends, I found it easy to connect with others along the way. We hailed from different backgrounds, different countries, different demographics, and were hiking the trail for different reasons, but we all melded together easily in a multi-colored bouquet of humanity.

Rarely have I found so many people so welcoming. We ate together, shared our stories, and sometimes divulged our deepest secrets. I was surprised by what complete strangers were willing to share with me—but then again, many people hike the Camino as a way to release past hurts, and what’s the harm in sharing your story with someone you’ll likely never see again?

As I walked the trail, I marveled at how safe and protected I felt. You know how when you’re walking down the street in your normal, everyday life and you hear someone come up behind you? Usually, you glance back, you become on guard.

On the Camino, you welcome footsteps and a chance to get to know someone new.

All of this got me thinking: What if everyday life were more like the Camino?

  • We’d welcome strangers to our tables
  • We’d be more open with others
  • We’d smile more often and aim for connections (instead of putting on our headphones and ignoring each other)
  • We’d trust
  • We’d care less about a person’s background and appearance and more about who they really are
  • We’d live life with open arms and open hearts

Even if you’ve never walked the Camino, you can still bring the spirit of the trail to your life. Challenge yourself to be more open and candid with others; practice being more welcoming to co-workers and acquaintances. You’re entire world may change.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Banish your self-doubt! Here’s how…

We’re mixing things up today and posting an Infographic on the UXL blog. Enjoy! (Text posted below for those who can’t read it).


  1. Pay attention: Recognize when you’re thinking negative thoughts or telling yourself, “I can’t.” Do certain situations prompt more self-doubt than others?
  2. Talk back: Though it may sound crazy, start talking back to your self-doubt! For instance, if you catch yourself thinking, “No one wants to listen to my ideas,” counter with “Yes, they do. My ideas are valuable and people are interested in what I have to say.”
  3. Use a Power Pose: Keeping your shoulders back and your head held high has a positive psychological effect and can actually boost your confidence.
  4. Do Your Research: Going into a scary situation with a little preparation can make a huge difference. Be sure to anticipate questions others might ask and practice answering them.
  5. Challenge Yourself: The way to achieve growth is to constantly challenge yourself. Once you overcome doubt in one area, move on to another!

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Why is it so hard to put things in perspective until some major event shakes our lives? Why is it easy to be distracted by the “trees,” when we know we should be considering the “forest?” Why do we get so annoyed by small inconveniences?

I wish I had easy answers!

The best thing we can all do is simply pay attention.

Listen to your thoughts and emotions. Constantly ask yourself whether or not it’s productive to dwell on something or get upset. In short: put things in perspective.

In my own life, I have often caught myself focusing on things that simply don’t matter—a friend’s no-show at a gathering, someone’s difference of opinion, someone who under or over-dressed at a work event.

It’s human nature to get distracted by these small things. But, if we really let ourselves get bogged down by them, we miss out on the things that actually matter.

Think about it:

what matters in your life? Your family? Your career? Your health? Take time TODAY to appreciate and think about the things that matter. You never know when tragedy may strike and your situation may change.

In your personal life…

  • Practice being more forgiving
  • Be present
  • Share time and laughter with those you love
  • Tell others how you feel
  • Show gratitude

In your career…

  • Always give it your all and perform to the best of your ability
  • Have direct conversations with others
  • Have a big-picture plan
  • Set and focus on large goals
  • Delegate (if you can) items that are not in your sweet spot
  • Don’t avoid problems—face them head-on

There are many ways to pull yourself out of the weeds and start considering the bigger picture. No matter your approach, it’s important you at least try. When you find yourself distracted by the small things, remove yourself from the situation, take a step back, and reconsider. End pettiness TODAY.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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build a good reputation

Your reputation may sound like something that’s out of your control. It’s the way others perceive you, right? It’s the culmination of every interaction, victory, failure, good deed, and (criticism?) harsh word, all rolled into one. How can you contain this many-armed monster and make it your own? Start with these six steps:

1. Pay attention

Although this may seem like a basic concept, it’s an absolutely crucial one. Pay close attention to how you treat others, from your co-workers to your boss to the custodian staff to your barista at Starbucks. Every interaction has the potential to either build-up or tear down your personal brand. Start seeing yourself through the eyes of others and work on a vital little skill called empathy.

2. Be consistent

When you consistently put your best foot forward, you will find that your reputation will fall under your control. If, for example, you show one side of yourself to certain co-workers and another side to others, you’re bound to run into problems somewhere down the line. Be your best, authentic self, no matter if you’re having a conversation with a potential new client, chatting with a co-worker, or posting on social media (yes, that matters too!).

3. Be on time

Whether for meetings, projects, or the start of the work day, BE ON TIME. Punctuality matters and your timeliness can boost your credibility in a big way.

4. Stop making excuses

No one likes an excuse-maker. If you make a mistake or fail to deliver on a project, own up to your error and ask how you can set things right. If you vow to be excuse-free (more on that in a past blog post), you’ll also tend to be a better planner so that you won’t feel the need to make excuses in the first place.

5. Don’t gossip

Nothing kills a good reputation faster than gossip. People will quickly begin to distrust you and may be hesitant to confide in you or entrust you with a team project. And if you find yourself surrounded by gossiping co-workers, do your best to change the subject or simply remove yourself from the conversation. You are above that.

6. Extend small kindnesses

Whenever you see an opportunity for a kind gesture, make it. Say thank you, offer to help, or ask about someone’s day. Make sure your gestures are authentic and heart-felt. You should actually want to help and uplift your co-workers and clients.

 

Are you in control of your reputation? Although credibility takes a long time to build, you can start taking steps immediately to build a healthy, promotion-worthy reputation. Feel free to contact me for more ways to build a stellar reputation.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Mentoring and leadership

It comes as no surprise to me that businesses and organizations of all types have set up mentorship programs to increase meaningful relationships among the members of their teams. Why? Because mentoring is one of the most powerful, effective forms of leadership.

Yet I’ve noticed that many are hesitant to adopt the role of mentor. They may feel that they aren’t good enough teachers, or that they lack the confidence to take ownership of their skill sets.

The truth is we’re all mentors, whether we know it or not. And while we may not have fully developed this trait, we all possess the potential to become effective mentors and, at the same time, enrich and empower our leadership.

How does mentoring another give your own leadership a boost?

1. It encourages you to always lead with a good example.

Sometimes we slip into bad work habits and mentoring another causes us to be aware of those bad habits and avoid them.

2. You discover knowledge gaps.

Your mentee may ask questions to which you don’t know the answer. That forces you to research or reach out to co-workers to find the answer, thus expanding your knowledge base.

3. You build communication and people skills.

Mentoring helps strengthen your communication skills in one-on-one situations. Since you are the authority figure, it can also build your confidence and even your public speaking skills.

4. You build credibility

Not only will you build credibility in the eyes of your mentee, but other people around the office will see you as reliable, a go-getter, and someone who knows their stuff. You have enough knowledge and poise to tutor another; you must have what it takes to perform your job well (and maybe even land a promotion!).

How to be a Mentor?

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of mentoring to your leadership, let’s look at the best ways to be a mentor:

Mentors Lead By Example

In an article from The Journal of Leadershipeducational consultants John C. Kunich and Richard I. Lester detail some key aspects of strong mentoring.

A mentor must behave at all times, both publicly and privately, as if the protégé were the mentor’s shadow.

Even in your life outside of work, when people might not be watching, you must stay consistent with your values. At the end of the day, good leadership relies upon a life of integrity. When you take a protégé under your wing, you give them clearance to assess your actions. Don’t take this lightly! It’s a big responsibility, yes, but it’s also immensely rewarding to be able to show your mentee the ropes simply by doing the work you do best.

Mentors Share Their Networks

One of the greatest resources an “old head” owns is a network of people who can help cut through the usual tangle of red tape and quickly obtain the desired result.
Networking usually relies upon sharing contacts and leads, so what better way to give your protégé a head start than equipping them with contacts? Set them up with meetings or informational interviews, give out contact information, or hand them one of your friend’s business cards. I’m sure you can think of people in your life who’ve let you into their already-established network, and I’m just as sure that you appreciate that they did.

Mentors Set Goals And Instill The Value Of Goal-Setting

It should become apparent to the protégé that there are significant differences between workable goals and pleasant but less reality-based dreams, hopes, or wishes.
Because great leaders are able to transform bold visions into reality through the implementation of planning and goal-setting, as a mentor you must also stress the importance of this skill, and work with your protégé on developing goals for themself. A good way to do this is to guide them through the process of differentiating between wishes and workable goals. Get a feel for your mentee’s hopes and dreams. Have them transfer their dreams into workable goals, and write out a long term program with them to get there. With you there as an adviser and a guide, your mentee will learn that visions truly can become reality, but only through long term planning, consistency and gradual steps.

 

Reference

Kunich, John C. and Lester, Richard I. “Leadership and the Art of Mentoring: Tool Kit for the Time Machine.” Journal of Leadership 1-2: (2001) 118, 125, 126.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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preparation for job hunt

It pays to take a page out of the Boy Scout’s book and always Be Prepared. You may be somewhat content with your current job, but you never know when things may change. Perhaps your company downsizes and your position is cut, or your new boss is nearly impossible to work with, or you discover an amazing new work opportunity and would like to apply.

Instead of scrambling to get your ducks in a row, take action NOW to prepare for your “someday” job hunt. How to do it? Try out these five “Keeps.”

Keep your information updated.

Get in the habit of looking over your résumé every few months, or whenever you have a major work-related change (a new position or responsibility, an award, a new training certificate, etc.). Update your résumé and potentially delete outdated items. Do the same thing for your LinkedIn profile (you’d be surprised how many recruiters turn to LinkedIn for hiring!)

Keep a list of your accomplishments

No matter how small the achievement, write it down! Keep a list of all your successful projects, awards, recognition, new clients, and more. If you’re able to find statistics to back up your accomplishments (i.e. “I brought in 10 new clients for the company this past year” or “I contributed to 15% of our sales this year”), that’s even better. It’s always a good idea to bring up specific accomplishments in interviews.

Keep up your training/education

Don’t let yourself grow complacent! Look for continuing education courses, webinars, or workshops that can help keep your skills sharp. Keeping your skill set up to date will also help you in your current position.

Keep networking

It’s easy to ignore networking events when you’re not actively looking for a job, but they can provide a wealth of opportunities. You may connect with someone from your dream company or meet someone who is doing work that may be an excellent fit for your talents. Besides, networking isn’t all about job hunting. It’s about meeting potential new clients and collaborators as well. It’s also possible that you might be able to help someone else who is looking to get into a similar position or company as yours.

Keep a clear vision

Don’t forget to take “you time” every now and then to reflect upon where you currently are and where you’d like to go. What is your vision of the future? What makes you happy? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years? Keep your dreams top-of-mind and recognize that they don’t have to be just dreams. With a little effort and a clear path, they can become your reality.

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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perennials: don't generalize by generation

I hear it all the time. People complaining about other generations.

“Millennials are                I don’t understand them at all.”

Or: “Why are Baby Boomers so               ?”

Or: “Everyone in Gen X is clearly                  .”

It’s time we stop limiting each other. These on-the-surface labels are doing much more harm than good. They allow us to write off entire generations (many millions of people!) with sweeping generalizations. And the truth is, many people don’t fit the stereotypes.

Take “entitlement,” for example. Many people think of Millennials (the group born between 1980 and 2000) as an entitled bunch that thinks they deserve things without actually working for them. Not only is this stereotype getting tiresome, it is frankly untrue.

Although many of them started working at an economically tumultuous time (the Great Recession), Millennials have proven themselves to be innovative and resilient. They’ve invented jobs when none were available; they’ve taken over top leadership positions; they’ve learned how to live with less by taking advantage of the new “sharing economy.”

Are some Millennials entitled and lazy? Of course. But so are many Gen-Xers and Boomers.

And just because Millennials have new ways of working, doesn’t mean they’re lazy. They might simply have a better grasp on technology and be able to complete tasks more efficiently.

On the same token, not all Baby Boomers are out-of-touch and irrelevant! Many are excited and interested in new technologies, new ways of thinking, and creative endeavors.

Although generational constructs are helpful for marketing purposes, they can be utterly lethal in the workplace. Pigeonholing people before they’ve had a chance to show their true colors only harms productivity and interpersonal dynamics. Besides, you might be working alongside Perennials, a group that defies generational boundaries.

What are Perennials?

Gina Pell, who coined the term, says that Perennials are “ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages…[they] comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic.”

I’m sure you’ve encountered many so-called Perennials in your life. These are the young people with “old souls.” These are the older people who love to crack jokes and try new things. These are the people who don’t limit their interactions to their own peer group and instead find friendship with people of all ages. These are the people who refuse to be defined by age.

As Pell says: “It’s time we chose our own category based on shared values and passions and break out of the faux constructs behind an age-based system of classification.”

I couldn’t agree more.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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